Hello again from the Big Blue!
Hello? Anyone out there? I guess it’s my fault for being
so sporadic in my postings. Well, for the five of you patient enough to wait
around for me, how about an update?
With six weeks left on the rock, Prez and I have been
enjoying the cooler days and nights and trying to savour all the things we’ve
come to take for granted that we will no doubt miss once we leave this little
paradise. It helps that our friend Michael, of Conservancy Trust fame, has
started up a little business venture with two friends from Kiwi Land.
In the last Coconut Chronicle I mentioned the South
Pacific Kiteboarding Centre, which is now up and flying on Exile Island, a
small motu in the Southeast corner of the lagoon. For those who’ve never heard
of it, kiteboarding is similar to windsurfing except instead of a sail, it is a
large “kite”, (actually it looks more like a parachute), that catches the wind
and propels you through the water. The guys who run the school and teach the
courses, Jimmy and Andrew, are both super blokes and hot boarders.
Kiteboarding is a thrilling sport but from what I’ve seen
the learning curve is fairly steep, and involves getting a few liters of salt
water up one’s nose. Prez, who, quite frankly, often pisses me off with his
ability to learn any new sport in less than a day, even commented on his first
day “body dragging”, (exactly as it sounds), and how tough it was on the body,
over a hand full of Advils. For spectators, though, the many multi-coloured
kites soaring against the azure sky is a beautiful sight.
Of course, this wouldn’t be a small island story if it
didn’t include some pettiness, greed, and sophomoric drama. The first to
complain about the kite center were the lagoon tour operators. Yes, the same
ones who went pouting to the mayor about us, way back when. Their song never
changes. “They’re taking business away from locals”. Yadda, yadda, yadda.
However, in the case of the kite center, the exact opposite is true.
Prez, never one to sit back idly when he smells bs,
conducted an kind of informal survey among several of the kiters he met. Turns
out that all of them agreed on one thing, they would not have come to Aitutaki
if it wasn’t for the kite center. And here’s something else to note: in order
to kite board, one needs wind. A decent amount of wind, in fact. As you may
suspect, the wind does not blow every day. What do the kiters do on the days it
is not windy? Why they might go shopping in town ($), they might treat
themselves to lunch at one of the restaurants, ($$), they might even take a
lagoon tour ($$$). So, all these people, who came to Aitutaki just for kiting,
actually end up spending money on a variety of local businesses, (I didn’t even
mention their accommodation, flights, etc). And the brainiacs whose businesses
benefit from these extra tourists wanted to stop the kite center from
Yeah, welcome to the Twilight Zone.
The next group of kite center detractors are my favourite
because the irony is so thick you can eat it with a fork.
As I mentioned, the center is located on a small motu on
the lagoon. In accordance with local laws, the structure the guys have built is
not permanent. At the end of the season – when the trade winds vanish – the
entire center will be taken down and put into storage back on the main island.
Also, they remove all of the garbage they produce and cart out all human waste,
(think: porta-potty). The area where the boarders set up and ride is,
essentially, a large sand spit, since riding around and potentially wiping out
on coral is not something anyone would classify as a good time. The only thing
more environmentally friendly than kiteboarding is thinking about
Enter the Island Council.
Ah, this group of fossils, who do nothing worthwhile that
I’m aware of, began head shaking and finger wagging over this new business and
the tourists with their new fangled contraptions. “We are Guardians of the
Lagoon!” they declared. Now, if I was a cynical person, (who? me?), I might
suggest that these blowhards are nothing more than a bunch of walking egos whose
collective noses were put out of joint because a small group of mostly
foreigners didn’t come crawling to them for permission before opening a
Guardians of the Lagoon you say? Really? So,
when the Chief of Police was fishing in the Ra-aui, (protected reserve),
you did what? Oh that’s right. Nothing, as usual. And how about all the others
who fish, spear fish, gill net and remove farmed clams – illegally – from the
same reserves? Nothing, again. The lagoon tour operator who incinerated a large
chunk of protected motu, rather than clearing foliage by hand, for his new
lunch area? Nothing to say there Guardians? The old septic tanks leaching human
waste into the lagoon, the pig farmer who keeps his animals – illegally – right
on beach front land, the garbage being burned in pits and also seeping into the
water, the people who walk on and destroy the coral, the gill nets twice the
legally allowed length, the gallons of tourist sunscreen washing off and
damaging the delicate coral? What of all these offenses? What do you, oh wise
and mighty Guardians of the Lagoon, have to say about all this?
(Six more weeks…six more weeks…six more…)
Anyway, Jimmy and crew, like the rest of us papa’a
understand the necessity of not rocking the boat, no matter how full of shit
that boat may be. They have taken steps to assure the Island Council that they
will be respectful of the lagoon…just as we have been these past two years.
If only the people who lived here cared as much about
this amazing, natural treasure as those who are just passing through.
But, lest you think I am all storm clouds and frowny
face, I should reiterate how happy I am to see the kiters come to this island.
Not least of all because I was able to spend some time with Jimmy’s wife, Liz,
and pass many happy hours, “nattering about books”. Intelligent, stimulating
conversations are manna from heaven and sadly absent since my friend Moana
moved away to the bustling metropolis of Rarotonga. (We miss you Mo!!!)
Prez and I were also treated to a theatrical production
of “The Rainbow World”, written and performed by the young children of the Kite
Centre parents, (directed and co-starring the aforementioned Liz). What a show!
Music, dancing, even an underwater sequence! Culture finally comes to Aitutaki.
It’s about time.
I’ll wrap up with a big Congrats to Kozak!!! Who, I’ve been
informed, was the Grand Prize winner of this year’s “Wing Off”, hosted by
Maratha and Patty Cakes Roney. I’m not sure which of his three chicken wing
dishes won but I’m sure they were all fabulous. We were privileged to receive
the master chef’s menu in advance and, well, I pitied the competition. Way to
go big fella, now start marinating that beef, you’ve only got two months left
before we arrive!
QUESTION: Guardians of the Lagoon? Really?
Until next time, I hope this finds you healthy, happy and